War hero returns home to Central Otago

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PAM JONES

@alliedpress.co.nz

One of New Zealand’s most decorated airmen has been laid to rest in Central Otago, decades after his war effort.

Wing Commander Arthur (Artie) Ashworth was the first man from Alexandra to volunteer for the air force in 1939 and went on to serve 29 years in the Royal Air Force (RAF). He received several decorations for bravery in World War 2, including the Distinguished Service Order and was twice awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

He trained in England, flying more than 60 operations over Germany with the 75 (New Zealand) Squadron and then doing a stint in Malta and the Middle East. He was then appointed to the elite Pathfinder Force – the pilots who led the way before a bombing operation, marking the target with flares.

W Cmdr Ashworth retired from the RAF due to ill health in 1967, and he lived in England until his death in 1994, but he had always wanted his ashes to be returned to Alexandra, his brother, Vince Ashworth, of Morrinsville, said.

After W Cmdr Ashworth’s wife, Kay Ashworth, died last year, plans were finally made to bring his ashes to New Zealand, Vince Ashworth said.

About 80 people, including RSA representatives and various extended family members, including W Cmdr Ashworth’s daughter-in-law from Bournemouth, England, attended a cemetery service on Saturday conducted by Andrew Howley, of the Alexandra-Clyde-Lauder Union Parish. Mr Howley said the service was for a “brave son of Alexandra”.

During the service 75 Squadron Association of New Zealand secretary Glen Turner read from the citations for some of W Cmdr Ashworth awards and they praised his “outstanding skill, courage and infinite care” in the face of intense anti-aircraft fire. citations said W Cmdr Ashworth was known for his “utter fearlessness”, “magnificent determination”, “total strength” and for being “an excellent example to others”.

Mrs Ashworth said it was “an honour” to bring her father-in-law home after all these years.